Loch Katrine Marathon. To be disappointed or not? That is the question.

I was looking forward to this marathon and then suddenly I wasn’t. I won’t go into lots of detail but I have been really, really sad and down recently. I also did a 16 mile training run on the route and experienced the hills and tarmac for real – that was a sobering experience. All in all I was really dreading it, and in fact spent the night before and a fair proportion of the whole week before it in tears. It’s really out of character for me but that has been the reality lately, hey ho.
I put a lot more training miles in cumulatively before LK compared with Edinburgh. I hadn’t been sitting on my laurels over the winter, there had been hill reps and interval sessions most Thursdays and consistently three to four runs a week although I hadn’t run longer than 16 miles for a few months. When I trained for Edinburgh I pretty much did one run a week, because I was commuting a long way. I was still a novice runner at Edinburgh, I really felt I should be able to do better at my second marathon. This would only be my second marathon for a marathon’s sake as any others took place during an ultramarathon. I have been harbouring the desire to do a sub-5 marathon, just once to have an official time starting with a 4. According to race calculators, it should be achievable going by my 10k and half marathon PBs.
It was not to be at LK, although I could have guessed that after the training run! It didn’t stop me hoping for some kind of race day miracle though.
The first, and possibly biggest, achievement of the day was that I turned up to the start. In spite of hugs galore from lots of good friends, my confidence was still in my boots. This is a really, lovely race – great, friendly atmosphere and a relatively small field even including the 10k and half marathon that make up the Loch Katrine Running Festival. As for the scenery, it’s simply gorgeous.
Once we started, I fell into pace with my friend Heather and actually continued like that for much of the first half. My first half was actually not bad at all, I even ran most of the hills, and if I’d maintained the pace I wouldn’t have been much over the 5 hours. Cue a pretty significant positive split; the first half was about 2.33 (faster than my first ever half marathon!) and the second half was 3.07. Probably a fairly common phenomenon on that route. I’m not sure if the hills are tougher on the way back or if they’re similar but you’re just so much more tired and each hill saps you a little bit more. My friend Minty likened it to being in a boxing match and the cumulative effect of each blow – individually they might not be that bad but put it all together and it’s a potential knock-out!!
Unfortunately, it was painful from the word go. My calves were inexplicably tight despite a proper taper and a sports massage on the Tuesday before, both my Achilles were complaining the whole time. On the return route even downhills were really hurting and I experienced a new pain in my shin, which has since shown up with bruising, but I managed to pick up the pace in the last three miles and passed another runner who was also suffering courtesy of the hilly course. I even managed a little finish line sprint, not the usual triumphant one but more out of desperation to be finished! I think there were three people behind me, fourth last is a new spot for me!
I got a wonderful welcome over the line from RD Audrey, my boyfriend Tom and my lovely friends Katherine, Heather, Ross, Noanie, Amanda, Lois and Robin – it turned into a bit of a group hug and it’s just brilliant the way a hardcore bunch always hang around to cheer in the later finishers.
So, yes I did tough out the whole course and I’m hugely grateful for the amazing support from fellow runners and the wonderful marshals in particular…long list coming – at the water stations: Lois, Lorna, Helen, John, Robin (yes, Robin Wombill who coached me to the end of GO33!) and Ross; at the turn Stuart and Spot the Duck; and on the bikes Norry, Douglas and Dougie. Not to mention one of the homeowners on the route who put out refreshments for the runners – the orange segments were like manna from heaven! Truly these people are absolute gems and I’m so lucky to count them amongst my friends.
I want to give some of the other runners a shout out too. First off, my boyfriend Tom who did his first marathon on this ridiculously brutal course and smashed it. My friends and running buddies Heather and Katherine, who both ran brilliantly and are going to demolish the Highland Fling in five weeks time. The lovely Amanda, who made sure I was suitably hugged before, during and after the race! Gerry, who won – yep I’m chums with the elite athletes too, don’t you know… an absolutely stonking 2.53! A very well deserved win for such a dedicated runner. Just superb to see so many fab folk out on the route and I won’t manage to mention everyone but what about Chen Chee Kong and Fiona Rennie who put in blistering performances whilst nonchalantly photographing all the other runners, marshals and beautiful scenery while they’re about it?! Seriously! Also my friend Fiona who did her first half marathon and put in a stonking performance despite recent injury and the gruelling course. Well done to all the runners, without exception they were encouraging of their fellow runners and respectful of the route. A huge congratulations to Janice who achieved her triple crown having progressed from 10k to half marathon and now full marathon during the three years of the festival – outstanding!!
Nitty gritty time. Performance. Eugh.
I did 5.40.26 (watch time, official race times will be published shortly). Not a PB, a PW in fact. OK, I was pretty disappointed. I’ve done so much more running in the last two years, so many more miles, hills and even began doing speedwork and yet…
I really would have liked to do better but maybe I can cut myself a little slack when I look at the elevation compared with Edinburgh. 174ft versus 1784ft, that’s a pretty hefty difference. Hopefully, 7 minutes slower with ten times as much climbing is actually an indication that my running has improved a bit at least. Based on that, I reckon I probably could go sub 5 at Edinburgh or a similarly flat marathon.
For the sake of some more navel gazing (guess what? There’s nowt but fluff in there), I compared my marathons with my marathon times during ultras.
Marathons (evil tarmac all the way)
March 2013 Edinburgh Marathon – 5.33.20, elevation 174ft
March 2015 Loch Katrine Marathon – 5.40.26, elevation 1,784ft
Marathons during trail ultras:
November 2013 GO33 – 6.17.25 (total 31.5 miles, 7.35.40, elevation 2,728ft)
May 2014 Kintyre Way Ultra – 7.05.35 hilly (total 35.5 miles, 9.35.02, elevation 4,374ft)
August 2014 Speyside Way Ultra – 6.33.36 (total 36.5 miles, 9.24.23, elevation 2,104ft)
September 2014 Glenmore 12 – 6.17.12 (total 46.17 miles, 12.00, elevation 3,348ft)
I’m not sure how those marathons within ultras should compare with marathons for a marathon’s sake but they’re all a good bit slower anyway and the time period is just under two years. Is two years still a novice? I don’t think I’ve drawn any concrete conclusions from my pseudo-analysis right now, except that I do believe I’ve still got more potential and I can do better.
I will keep trying. I don’t do giving up!
Photo courtesy of Lois, bringer of flapjacks and deliverer of hugs and encouragement.

Photo courtesy of Lois, bringer of flapjacks and deliverer of hugs and encouragement.